Better Jobs Data A Mixed Blessing For Obama

President Barack Obama's claim that his economic policies are helping put Americans back to work got a shot in the arm Friday when government data showed the nation's jobless rate dropped to the lowest level in three years.

"We have made real progress," Obama said Friday after the latest employment report was released. "Now is not the time to stop."

The government reported Friday that the job market expanded at a healthy clip in December, pushing the unemployment rate to 8.5 percent. The news followed a series of reports pointing to a broad pick-up in economic growth.

Private employers added 200,000 workers last month, the Labor Department said. It was the biggest gain in three months and a much stronger showing that the 150,000 gain economists had expected. November's jobless rate was revised up a notch to 8.7 percent, easing widespread concerns that the sharp drop from October was a one-month fluke.

With the presidential campaign gaining momentum, the data gave the White House a welcome reprieve from the grim economic data that has dogged his presidency. What Obama needs going into the election cycle is for the good news on the job front to continue or even accelerate.

"When we took over the administration, we were losing 800,000 jobs, hemorrhaging jobs, with major losses just short of a depression," said Labor Secretary Hilda Solis. "Now we see a better trajectory where we're moving in the right direction. I believe the public is supportive of the kinds of solutions that the president is talking about, but we need to do more."

Republicans wasted no time downplaying the impact of the president's economic policies.

"I can't give Washington, either Congress or the administration, any credit whatsoever," said Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn. "We just have not done things that need to be done. This (improvement is coming from) the private sector and its resiliency, in spite of the fact we've had very bad behavior out of Washington."

It's also far from clear that the improvement in the employment data will continue for the next 10 months. Most economic forecasters see economic growth slowing in 2012. The outlook is clouded by the ongoing debt crisis in Europe, which is expected to slip into recession even if a wider financial disaster can be averted.

The decline in the headline jobless rate could stall even if the U.S. economy continues to heal. The rate has fallen partly as a result of a decline in the official size of the workforce. If so-called "discouraged" jobless workers see better odds of getting hired, begin looking again and then get counted as having re-entered the workforce, the decline in the unemployment rate could slow or reverse course.

If that happens, Friday's upbeat news could be long forgotten by election day.

"If I were sitting in the White House, I would look for the unemployment rate to bump up a little bit now rather than the spring or summer if people are coming back into the labor force," said Matt McDonald, a Republican economic strategist.

The Obama administration used the upbeat report to prod Congress to continue policies that include extending last year's payroll tax cut and long-term unemployment insurance benefits. After deadlocking for weeks, Congress agreed in December to continue those policies for only two months.

"It is critical that we continue the economic policies that are helping us to dig our way out of the deep hole that was caused by the recession that began at the end of 2007," said White House Chief Econmist Alan Krueger.

Republican opponents argue that the cost of those policies, and the impact on the federal budget deficit, outweigh any stimulus that increased spending gives the economy. Even Obama supporters note that there's not much more the White House can do to boost growth and create jobs.

"I searched all around in the basement," said Austan Goolsbee, Obama's former chief economist. "There's not a big lever down there you can flip and get everything going."

Though the jobs numbers are moving in the right direction, most voters think the country is on the wrong track, according to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, conducted in early December. Only 22 percent believe the county is headed in the right direction; some 69 percent told pollsters the U.S. is headed in the wrong direction.

"People are still feeling like labor market is hurting and they're right," said Stanford economist Ed Lazear, who served as chief economist for George W. Bush. "Even if things are getting better, when you're at 8.5 percent unemployment, this a very different labor market than we saw in 2007 when the unemployment rate was 4.4 percent. So it's no surprise that people still feel like the labor market is struggling even if the moves are in the right direction."

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  • by JD on Jan 8, 2012 at 06:03 AM
    One last thing, the following quote describes Obama's stimulus bill (aka the Porkulus Bill) to a T: "The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money." Alexis de Tocqueville
  • by JD on Jan 8, 2012 at 05:48 AM
    In continuation of my earlier statement, everything the government has done to this point (with the notable exception of the payroll tax reduction), has either required the government to FIRST take money out of the economy through higher taxes or fees or to print more money in order to give it to whomever the stimulus and bailout dollars went to. And don't forget they must cover their own overhead, which most of us realize is quite massive for the federal government. So it isn't simply a matter of robbing Peter to pay Paul; the gov Rob's Peter to pay the salaries of gov employees and other OH expenses associated with giving Paul the leftover pocket change. As Winston Churchill put it: "We contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle." You could also add the phrase "or print money" to the above. As you can tell, I am loathe to give credit to the government. Always have been, simply because I"m not part of the "government knows best" crowd. In order to give them credit, you must assume that the government actually knows what it is doing ... BWAWWAHAHWAAWHAHWA!!!!!
  • by Anonymous on Jan 8, 2012 at 05:41 AM
    obuma supporters, please put away your pompoms and rose colored glasses and ask yourself if having a few new jobs is worth a wrecked economy, now a very weaken defense and having some very happy chinese who look forward to taking over the country.
    • reply
      by To anonymous on Jan 8, 2012 at 07:42 PM in reply to
      What about your glasses? Ask yourself is gaining jobs is better than losing 600,000 in one month! That is how many were lost during Bush's last month. Weakened defense? Who got bin Laden? The withdrawal from Iraq was signed by Bush! The corporations moving to China are the very ones that the GOP is protecting and wanting to "forgive" for their tax bill!!
      • reply
        by Obama Snake Oil Co on Jan 9, 2012 at 05:42 AM in reply to To anonymous
        You rant sounds like another alcohol induced dribble...take it easy, people know how to find out the truth...well, most of us do, apparently you don't google facts.
        • reply
          by To Snake on Jan 9, 2012 at 06:10 AM in reply to Obama Snake Oil Co
          Which of the 3 is Fox not reporting? In Dec. of 2008, we lost 600,000 jobs-fact. Bush did NOT get bin Laden, Obama did. The GOP IS trying to pass a bill to "forgive" taxes of corporations to get them to "please come back". They did not leave due to taxes-they left for cheap labor and if American workers are weakened enough to work for the same wages as those in India and China do-they will come back! Problem: if American workers agree to sub-human wages-there will be no middle class and this country is doomed! You asked what Wal-mart did with their 19 billion in porfits-well, they are going to China with it!! I say instead of not supporting American workers, it is time to BOYCOTT any company that out-sources!!
        • reply
          by Obama Snake Oil Co on Jan 9, 2012 at 10:09 AM in reply to Obama Snake Oil Co
          What Fox has to do with your post is like comparing two headed trees. Corps went overseas due to high corp income taxes and lots of expensive new regs imposed by Obama on the EPA. The rest of your drivel is dolt stories for the libterds. Obama didn't kill Bin Laden, the seals did. So when are you going to boycott Jeffrey Imelts company GE? Oh, he is Obamas biggest supporter that helped him get elected and moved his company, GE to China. Yeah, I got that from Fox but I got it from the internet too. You stories come right off some libterd web site...mediamatters, moveon, huffington post....they are all the same supported by the billionaire George Soros. Another big Obama supporter...are you feelin like a toilet seat in a rest stop yet?
  • by Anonymous on Jan 8, 2012 at 04:22 AM
    The average unemployment rate for America was around 6% during the Bush terms. Under Obama it has averaged miserably above 8%.
    • reply
      by To anonymous on Jan 9, 2012 at 06:10 AM in reply to
      Where were you beteen July of 2008 and Dec. 2008?
      • reply
        by Obama Snake Oil Co on Jan 9, 2012 at 10:11 AM in reply to To anonymous
        What part of "average" did you not understand? As soon as Obama was the contender, corps closed the safes as they knew....another big tax and spend guy was coming to DC. Too bad you don't understand that.
  • by Gregory on Jan 8, 2012 at 04:09 AM
    Not too hard to imagine the liberal media will allow the obamanure administration to fudge numbers and then report how wonderful evwerything is. Anyone out there no anyone(who was actually looking)who found a good job recently? This lying and mudslinging from the demoncrats is going to get worse the closer we get to the election. obamnure can't run on his record so he has to lie and sling mud
  • by Anonymous on Jan 8, 2012 at 04:00 AM
    Has anyone noticed that the same right wing posters always have a negative comment about any data indicating the economy is improving? They just hate to see any improvements during the Obama Administration........sickening and unpatriotic.
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Jan 8, 2012 at 08:13 AM in reply to
      no we just hate seeing the liberal media spewing lies, false numbers, fudged numbers just to try and prop up obama as a successful leader. He has failed miserably. Unemployment is much greater than 8% average in the USA
  • by bs on Jan 8, 2012 at 02:18 AM
    i would assumn that majority of decembers job increases came from seasonal employment. I dont know about washington but its no longer christmas in NC.
  • by Anonymous on Jan 7, 2012 at 10:08 PM
    To Steve@10:29.....Ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha...."you guys are nuts!
  • by Steve Location: Ayden on Jan 7, 2012 at 07:29 PM
    So if these numbers are really good, which is questionable if you take into account that we are at the lowest level of workforce participation since that record has been kept, what has changed over the past year when we added jobs. We had a Republican congress that was able to put up a firewall against more government intrusion. No trillion dollar, shovel ready, union payoff, green "jobs" programs and WE ADDED JOBS. Thank GOD for the Republican congress and their answer of NO!! No payoffs to unions, no wasteing taxpayer money. Anyone with common sense knows that no is not only a legitimate answer but in most cases the BEST answer.
    • reply
      by Barlow on Jan 8, 2012 at 05:42 AM in reply to Steve
      You know, there is spin and then there is whatever you just tried to do there. NOw I know why Congresse's approval rating is at that ALL TIME HIGH 0f 9%! It's because of the wonderful job they are doing by just doing NOthing! You guys don't even need the presidency! Y'all can just keep rolling like you have been, gettin it NOt done and keepin everything great! Thank you so much Repugnant for just not doing anything worthwhile at all
      • reply
        by Anonymous on Jan 8, 2012 at 08:15 AM in reply to Barlow
        Barlow, the new republican house is doing EXACTLY what we elected them to do.... STOP THE IDIOTIC POLICES and new legisation the democrate senate and President obama are trying to pass. They are doing all they can and this is why we sent them there !
        • reply
          by Barlow on Jan 8, 2012 at 08:40 AM in reply to
          Send me! Send me! I'll take 100k plus for doing nothing! Watch! NO! NO! NO! See, I'm a pro. And don't forget to give me that government run healthcare I don't want anybody else to have when you pay me.
        • reply
          by Anonymous on Jan 8, 2012 at 02:55 PM in reply to
          for once, I'll agree with you Barlow. They ALL need to lose or lower their perks and pay. They also should have term limits... max of two terms and you're outta here. Especially the house, they were supposed to be average citizens that do their duty to represent us, the average people. Now everyone must be rich just to get elected.
      • reply
        by Obama Snake Oil co on Jan 9, 2012 at 05:50 AM in reply to Barlow
        And you, Barlow the master of libterdial spin weigh in. The GOP in the house has approval, the DNC in the senate, just drags the numbers into the toilet...yeah, Reid. He is Mr No for anything infront of him, job bills, cuts in regs to bring companies back to the all sits there waiting. Obimbocare...on his desk...seems like the king of libterds will just go around congress like a dictator...yeah, Obimbo....well he is gone in 2012 like Jimmy Carter, the second worst president in history....
  • by Wolfgang Location: Chocowinity,NC on Jan 7, 2012 at 06:14 PM
    Funny , Friday the dem lib media reports good jobs reports and the stock market tanks and ends in the red? Does Wall Street have the real job numbers. How many have given up looking for a job? Maybe started their own business? Obama set expectations as an election promise. Unemployment was not supposed to go over 8% if we elect him Unemployment has exceeded over 8% for 3 over his years now. Even using the ridiculously understated US Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers. Most economists examing the data are arriving at figures 10 - 25 % and higher for most blacks . It is also obvious to rational people that the stimulous did not deliver as promised. Is the answer is “more of the same”. I hope not
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Jan 8, 2012 at 03:58 AM in reply to Wolfgang
      Wolf... obama has been known to LIE. A lot !
    • reply
      by and... on Jan 8, 2012 at 10:45 AM in reply to Wolfgang
      here is some numbers for ya... George Dubya "two war" bush is gone , time to end the other Dubya war.
    • reply
      by To Wolfgang on Jan 8, 2012 at 07:45 PM in reply to Wolfgang
      Strange, those "reporting" the improvement are the same ones who reported the bad news, but you didn't compain then! Just as the same adjustments are used-it's called "control" when the bad reports come in. BUT you only believe the bad-so-we don't believe YOU!!
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